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FRANKFORT – Senate Democratic Floor Leader Ray S. Jones II, D-Pikeville, re-filed legislation to stimulate eastern Kentucky’s economy by helping unemployed coal miners find jobs, while helping low income families reduce their power bills.
“Kentucky has lost thousands of coal jobs,” said Jones, the grandson of a coal miner. “Eastern Kentucky is the hardest hit region of the state. Every day in my hometown, I see the hardships created by these job losses. My region is hurting – families are leaving, businesses are suffering and schools are in crisis.”
“Since 2011, more than half of all Kentucky coal jobs have been eliminated and many of those layoffs are in eastern Kentucky,” he said. “Many of us have family, friends and neighbors who once had good jobs with the coal industry, but are now unemployed and, unfortunately, do not have the skills to compete for the few jobs that are available. This is where we can help them.”
Senate Bill 196 proposes to help unemployed coal miners by making available the education and job retraining needed to reenter the workforce.
“The folks who lost their jobs because of the downturn in the coal industry do not want the government to take care of them,” said Jones. “They just want to be able to find work that will allow them to support their families.”
The Education and Workforce Development Cabinet could capitalize on state and federal workforce development funds to develop and implement the newly-developed jobs programs. Among the funding sources is the Reclaim Act of 2016, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, which is to provide $1 billion in funding to assist coal communities hit the hardest by the downturn of the coal industry through economic development and job creation.
SB 196 also gives preference points to a coal miner’s score for classified employment positions within state government to help miners reenter the workforce.
Additionally, SB 196 provides specialized training in energy auditing and energy efficiency contracting certification for displaced coal miners through Kentucky Community Technical College System (KCTCS). That training would then be utilized in making home energy-efficiency improvements.
SB 196 diverts 1% of the coal severance tax earmarked for the General Fund to finance the specialized energy job training and the subsidies and low-interest loans for home energy-efficiency improvements.
“This would allow us to offer new job opportunities to replace lost coal mining jobs, while providing a boost to the housing construction market,” said Jones. “This measure would assist low-income households, which often receive low-income heating assistance, to better control their energy usage and costs. It is a long term solution for both of these problems.”
“The people who can least afford higher energy costs are the ones paying them,” he explained. “The low-income and very low-income households are the homes with the poorest energy efficiency. Energy-efficiency improvements will help those on fixed incomes to spend less on utility bills.”
The decline in coal as an energy source over the past few years has resulted in skyrocketing power bills. Jones said SB 196 would help thousands of families – those hit the hardest by the downturn in the coal industry -- with reductions to their power bills.
“It is time for us to get the economic engine of eastern Kentucky working again by giving them the tools to help themselves,” said Jones. “This legislation is a step in the right direction.”
This is the second year that Jones has filed this measure. Last session it did not get any traction. Jones said the Senate GOP majority would not allow the bill to be heard in 2016.
LAWRENCE COUNTY (February 17, 2017) – At 8 o’clock this morning, Friday, February 17, state highway officials will close KY 3394 in Lawrence County at mile point 5.20, near the end of state maintenance, in order to repair two slips in the roadway. The road will remain closed to traffic until about 5 p.m. today. School buses and emergency vehicles en route to an incident will be accommodated. All other traffic will have to find an alternate route during the working hours.
Highway District 12 Engineer Tim Spencer said Nattco, the state’s contractor on the job, will need to position drilling equipment across the roadway. The machinery takes up more than one lane of the two-lane highway, leaving insufficient room for traffic to travel through the work zone. “We apologize for the temporary inconvenience,” Spencer said. “These repairs will make the road much safer and we appreciate everyone’s understanding and patience.”
LAWRENCE COUNTY (February 14, 2017) – Road work on KY 3395 at milepoint 1.2 will shut down the road Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, February 21-23, from 8:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. each day. This is on the US 23 side of the road. School buses and emergency vehicles en route to an incident will be accommodated. All other traffic will have to find an alternate route during the working hours.
Highway District 12 Superintendent Todd Moran said several embankment failures will be fixed along this stretch of highway.
“The drilling equipment takes up more than one lane of the roadway,” he explained, “so there is no room to let traffic through the work zone. We apologize for the temporary inconvenience and want to thank everyone for their understanding and patience. The road will be much safer once these repairs are finished.”